Archives For June 2011

Ken Berger of CBS Sports – who has been covering the CBA negotiations as well as anyone – broke the news with a simple tweet not too long ago:

BREAKING: Owners have informed players they are locking out.

So here we are. The players union and owners haven’t found a middle ground on a labor agreement and we all suffer for it (and not only us, but a laundry list of employees from every team and arena as well as those in other professions whose positions are influenced by the operation of a multi-billion dollar sports league). And while we all saw this coming, it doesn’t make it any less a frustrating and sad day for basketball fans.

If you’d like some good reading on the issues, as well as proposals, here you go:

We’ll have much more on the lockout and the league in general as we learn more. But for now, treat this as your official lock out thread.

In his own words, Ron explains this thought process behind his decision to change his name. Highlights include him hoping for the name on the back of his jersey to be “World Peace” and that he’s already had people approaching him calling him by his soon to be legal name.

For what it’s worth, I can’t wait until next season when I get to write game previews and recaps with lines about “World Peace knocking a player to the floor while chasing a rebound” or that the Lakers should “look to take advantage of World Peace’s advantage in the low post against a smaller defender” or post a picture with the subtitle “Metta Bicep Kiss”.

Fast Break Thoughts

Darius Soriano —  June 29, 2011
  • Yesterday, the Lakers draft picks were introduced to the media after playing some scrimmages as part of the team’s free agent mini-camp. From that media access, we learned some interesting tidbits. Like how Darius Morris is already used to playing in front of Denzel Washington and that Andrew Goudelock doesn’t want to be called “goldilocks”.
  • What we also learned is that both players are humble yet confident. They understand that they’ll need to work hard to earn a spot but also see opportunity to compete and contribute with this team. I’m not sure I see either playing any kind of major role with this team next season, but it’s good to hear that they believe they can and that they’re willing to work to make it happen.
  • Yesterday we took a look at some free agents that could potentially be had for minimum dollars. In response to that, commenter DY mentioned former Warrior and Knick Kelenna Azubuike as another potential wing to bring in who could compete for a roster spot as a back up SG. I bring this up now because he’s an excellent name to keep tabs on as the summer progresses. He’s had a myriad of injury issues and who knows if he’ll be able to play next year. But, if healthy, he’s a good shooter, plays hard on both ends, and is the type of solid role player that you win with.
  • Not to be hard on Kevin Durant (I have the utmost respect for him and his game), but if this report is true I’m not sure what to think besides he needs to know these things. Especially as his team’s player rep.
  • What better way to celebrate the lockout than with the official Champagne of the NBA?
  • Here’s an interesting read touching on JJ Barrea and Shannon Brown and how, despite his faults, the Lakers may miss Shannon Brown should he depart in free agency.
  • Any analysis of Brown is interesting because he does bring traits to the Lakers (namely athleticism, durability, ability to create his own shot) that are positive ingredients to this team. However, his penchant for making little mistakes on both sides of the ball (like over-dribbling on O or going under screens on shooters on D) drove me crazier in each successive game. So, it’s a bit of a catch-22 with Shannon. I like what he brings to the team but want him to cut out those parts of his game that frustrate me so much. In the end, I wouldn’t mind having him back, but I’d also love a viable alternative should he deserve a trip to the dog house. Ultimately, he’s the type of player that makes enough plays where you feel you’ll miss him if he’s gone while also being average enough that you can’t believe relying on him is a good idea. Sigh.
  • Suffice to say, with no summer league and the potential for a prolonged lockout, we’re all going to have some time on our hands. So, does anyone have any good books they could recommend? Fiction or non-fiction, sports or non-sports related, it doesn’t really matter to me. I’m easily entertained.

Window Shopping

Darius Soriano —  June 28, 2011

The draft is over and the Lakers snagged two guard prospects they hope can make their team next year. That said, the Lakers nowhere near being finished completing their roster as relying on 2nd round picks to contribute to a championship contender isn’t what smart organizations do.

So, there is much work still to be done. Normally at this time of the year we’d be exploring free agent options and identifying who the Lakers could potentially sign and how those players could help the team win next year. But, ongoing labor negotiations and pending lockout have put that on hold for front offices around the league.

Even with that being the case, we’d be remiss if we still didn’t look at who this summer’s free agents are and who could be a good fit with the Lakers. You can bet the Lakers have identified targets to try and sign once a deal is struck between the owners and the players, so we too will look at what options are out there.

First, some caveats:

  • While I’m looking at the entire list of free agents, I’m zeroing in on unrestricted free agents that are have either already exercised player options to opt out or whose contracts have already expired.
  • I’m operating under the assumption that Shannon Brown will opt out of his contract and test the market.
  • With Mitch Kupchak openly denying he’s shopping players while also expressing confidence in the “core” of this team, I’m looking primarily at players that can play shooting guard and ones that can be the 4th big man (preferably a center or someone that can swing between PF and C, though this is not mandatory). 
  • I’m looking solely at players that I think will play for the veteran’s minimum as the likelihood of their being a mid-level exception in the next CBA is not clear and I’d prefer to only look at players that could come cheaply yet still contribute.

Now, on to the list:

  • Shannon Brown, SG: It seems strange that he’d return to the Lakers if he opts out of his contract, but one never knows how the market will treat Brown. There’s familiarity here and if Shannon doesn’t find a deal to his liking or a role that he thinks he can grow in, he may see if a return to the Lakers is his best option. While I’d bet against all of this happening should he actually opt out, he would, theoretically, be an option here.
  • Mike Dunleavy, SG/SF: Dunleavy is a tricky call here because he’d likely command more money on the open market. But, he’s played on losing teams his entire career and may enjoy playing for a contender like the Lakers even if it means taking less money. Dunleavy’s a good shooter (40% on threes last year) and has some ability to create off the dribble in both isolation and P&R’s. He’s seen as an underachiever for most of his career, but as a 4th guard playing 18-22 minutes a game, he could be a very good player.
  • Michael Redd, SG: Redd’s coming off multiple knee surgeries over the past two seasons and his injury history will scare a lot of teams away. However, he’s a very good shooter that before he was hurt played for Team USA and was a perennial all-star candidate.
  • Tracy McGrady, SG/PG/SF: McGrady showed that he was sufficiently recovered from his knee issues last season to be a surprise contributor to the Pistons. He showed good playmaking skills as a PG and should come cheap. At this point in his career, he could certainly play 15-20 minutes a game as someone that sets up his mates and takes smaller defenders into the post. His jumper is still only okay, but he’s enough of an offensive threat to still be taken seriously.
  • Sasha Vujacic, SG: Don’t discount the Machine, here. He’s still a descent shooter and is familiar with the team dynamics in Los Angeles. Yes, he fell out of favor with the last coaching staff (and was overpaid), but those coaches are now all gone and he should come cheaply.
  • Kwame Brown, C: Yes, another former Laker on this list. I know many have a visceral reaction to Kwame whenever he’s brought up, but his skill set matches what the Lakers need here. He plays good post defense, is durable, rebounds well, sets good screens and would come cheap. Plus, by all accounts, his former teammates from the Lakers (many of whom are still here) liked him a great deal.
  • Dan Gadzuric, C: The former UCLA product is available is actually a good fit here. He has size, tries on defense, and is an adequate rebounder. In 3 of the last 4 years he’s averaged around 10 minutes a game and has never been an issue in the locker room. As a fourth big man, the Lakers could do worse.
  • Kyrylo Fesnko, C: He has excellent size (7’1″, 280lbs) is young (24 years old) and is a good athlete. He’s a presence around the rim on defense and consistently works hard on both ends of the floor. If he’d sign for the minimum, I’d be more than happy to have him as a 10-12 minute a night player to spell Bynum and/or keep Pau’s minutes at Center to a minimum.
  • Kenyon Martin, PF: There’s some overlap here as he’s strictly a PF and couldn’t play C unless the team went really small. However, he’s aggressive on the glass is a versatile defender (he can switch P&R’s and cover wings for a possession or two) and is physically imposing. I’m not sure if he’d really fit as the 4th big on this team, but he’d be a good pick up that could provide energy for 15 minutes a night and could step in for longer should he be needed.

There are more players to look at, but this is our first stab at it. There are lots of intriguing names to consider and many that could step in next season and help this team. And while there won’t be a rush this Friday to snatch these guys up, it’s good to do some window shopping now to get familiar with who is available how they may fit.

From Brian Kamenetzky, Land O’ Lakers: Assuming we’re all translating his comments to in Puerto Rico, yes. His strong preference, expressed both by Barea in the story above and his agent Dan Fegan, is to remain with Dallas, which I suspect will happen no matter what rules are in place whenever the players and owners finally agree on a new CBA. Acquiring Rudy Fernandez on draft night hedges against, or perhaps guarantees, the loss of either or both Peja Stojakovic, DeShawn Stevenson, but does nothing to provide Dallas credible backup to Jason Kidd in the absence of Barea. Combined with the normal desire to keep the band together when defending a title, the fact Barea played well for the Mavs this season and crushed it in the playoffs, his high degree of popularity in Dallas, and that Mark Cuban would just as soon gnaw off his own arm before losing Barea to a team like the Lakers, and the likelihood he re-ups with Dallas rises even more.

From Wild Yams, Silver Screen and Roll: The next player up in our Player Report Card series is backup point guard Steve Blake.  Steve was signed by the Lakers almost a year ago on July 8th, 2010 to a 4-year contract worth $16 million.  Mitch Kupchak and the Lakers brought Blake to the team to fill the void left by the Lakers choosing to not re-sign Jordan Farmar, who went on to sign as a free agent with the New Jersey nets after spending his first five seasons with LA.  Blake was brought to LA because he was supposed to provide some of what the talented but inconsistent Farmar could not.  Blake was supposed to be a steady veteran who could hit spot up three-pointers, who could help run the triangle offense and distribute the ball, and who could play some defense.  And mainly Blake was brought in to help take some of the minutes away from aging starting point guard, Derek Fisher.  As we all know, things didn’t quite go as planned.

From Chris Shellcroft, Lake Show Life: Barring a miraculous occurrence it seems all but certain that disaster will strike this week. Unlike the NFL there is no billion dollar pie to argue over. The NBA pie is more like a burnt pizza that has small market owners fighting over charred crumbs. Thus a lockout is the only tool owners have at their disposal to reassert themselves as beneficiaries of the business of basketball. There is no way of knowing what kind of a summer we’re in for. Given the fact that there doesn’t appear to be much urgency to try and avoid a work stoppage I’m guessing we could see a big portion of the 2011-12 season canceled. But here at LSL we prefer to look at things from a positive perspective.

From Steve Aschburner, David Stern finally exhaled. The lights and cameras had clicked off. Another update on the NBA’s collective bargaining talks was done. Stern, the league’s commissioner, gazed at the table top where he sat and to no one in particular said, “I’m tired.” Moments earlier, he had joked about the rigorous turnaround in his work schedule: Traveling over to Newark to emcee a global telecast of the 2011 NBA Draft on Thursday, working the “room” of the Prudential Center through the first round amid catcalls from some beery fans, then skedaddling home to prep for Friday’s latest longish session of collective bargaining talks with the players association. It was the biggest meeting yet, with an estimated 40 additional players attending with the usual owners, lawyers and executives.

From Mike Trudell, Basket Blog: Growing up playing in the parks of Hawthorne, Inglewood, Compton and Long Beach, Darius Morris never imagined that one day he’d hear his name called at the NBA Draft with the words “Los Angeles Lakers select” in front of them. Morris joined us on Friday afternoon while still in New York with his family to detail his background, share his emotions on draft night and what it could be like guarding Kobe Bryant on the first day of training camp: Q: On when he had his first thought of making the NBA one day: Morris: Around the time I was 9 or 10 years old I started playing organized basketball with a team in Los Angeles called ABA hoops, and we went to nationals and played against the best team at the time. Team Maryland ended up winning, but we still performed, we were right there. My dad looked at me in the eye one day and told me, you can make it. He’s just always supported me whatever I wanted to do.

From Kevin Ding, OC Register: The NBA owners have to be smarter than this. The NBA players have to be smarter than this. he NBA commissioner, most of all, has to be smarter than this. Hello, David Stern? You still awake? You are smarter than this, right? Stern graduated from Rutgers University and Columbia Law School, has been an attorney since 1966 and began a working relationship with the NBA 45 years ago. In other words, he has been attached to the league longer than the NBA’s famous logo has been attached to the league. When Stern did his first work for the NBA as a lawyer, there were 10 teams playing, Ronald Reagan had just been elected governor of California and gas was 32 cents a gallon. Somewhere along the way, Stern must have learned that, for everything the NBA has grown up to become today, it still very much isn’t one thing: The NFL.

Make no mistake, a lockout is coming. How long it lasts or if it will impact the start of next season is anyones guess, but unless there’s some sort of miracle breakthrough in negotiations before this Friday the current collective bargaining agreement will expire and the owners will do what is within their rights to do by locking out the players.

The issues at hand are plenty and I will not get into them all right now. But the major point that the owners feel needs to be addressed is the fact that many of them claim to be losing money on a yearly basis. And by losing money, they are not able to compete in the league or be a viable business. In order to rectify this issue, they’re looking to change the business model of the league through a new agreement with the players. Their notion is that the current system is broken and needs fixing. The players, obviously, don’t share this opinion and would like the current system to remain as close to intact as possible while still acknowledging that some change is needed.

Hence, the disagreement, and thus the lockout on the horizon. Until both sides can come to an agreement as to what a new system should look like, there will be no basketball, but rather negotiations to find a middle ground that both sides can walk away from feeling okay with.

But what should the new agreement look like? People with a better understanding of the issues than I have a lot of good ideas. One of them is Tim Donahue of the Indiana Pacers site 8 Points, 9 Seconds. He’s been covering the negotations between the owners and players as well as anyone out there and has made his own proposal, based off what he thinks will work for the NBA moving forward. It’s a must read and as a fan of this game, you should head over and learn something.

He touches on all the major issues, including a hard cap, how basketball related income (BRI) should be divided, contract length, and even delves into revenue sharing (which is currently not a part of the CBA negotiations). A key passage:

The hard cap level will be established by taking the Players’ projected share of BRI, reducing it by $100 million to account for benefits, and dividing it by 30.  For example, a BRI of $4.0 billion would generate a hard cap amount of $64.7 million.  At $5 billion, the cap would be $87 million.    (Note:  a hard cap established by the Players BRI split virtually guarantees that the negotiated salaries and benefits will not meet the Players’ guarantee.  This hole will be filled by the owners, but the mechanics need to be sorted out.  I have an idea, but I can’t decide whether it’s brilliant or insane, so we’ll leave that sit for today.)

After going into a lot more detail (again, go read the post), Donahue also states:

This arrangement will reduce the long-term commitments of the owners, but it will not leave the players entirely “disposable.”  Front offices will still need to plan years into the future, but they should be able to avoid being trapped for three, four, or five years at a time. The owners’ have been (not inaccurately) accused of trying to “guarantee” profits for at both the league and team level.  However, it should be noted that the Players’ insistence on holding onto their guaranteed contracts and over half of the BRI amounts more or less to the same thing. As I said earlier, the Players should maximize their BRI, while the owners should seek to maximize their control.


As I briefly mentioned above, the other key to a viable business model for the league is revenue sharing amongst the owners. Over at Pro Basketball Talk, Kurt has an informative post up about this issue:

In the NFL — the gold standard for revenue sharing among professional sports — about 70 percent of what is considered football related income is shared (which is an issue because that used to be more than 80 percent just a few years back). In the NBA, that number is about 25 percent. That NFL number is driven largely by the massive national television contracts the league has.

Or look at it this way, The Lakers new local television contract that kicks in next seasons and will pay them upwards of $150 million a season, which is more than some teams will make in total revenue in a season. Yet, under the current system the Lakers have to share none of that money. It’s an issue the owners need to deal with. Big market owners have valid concerns that if they share more money that needs to be invested back into the business and not just pocketed by owners.

How this all turns out remains to be seen but understand that until this gets sorted out, there won’t be any basketball. No team will be able to sign free agents. Trades will not happen. The preparations by all teams for next season will be put on hold.  And as someone who suffered through the 1999 season that saw the cancellation of the all-star game in a 50 game campaign and a dip in the overall popularity of the league, I’m hoping against hope that a solution can be found. But the fact is that major issues remain and the two sides don’t seem to be very close on coming to an agreement.

From Dexter Fishmore, Silver Screen and Roll: I’ve received some more details about the draft-night trade of Chukwudiebere Maduabum to the Denver Nuggets. We knew the Lakers received a second-round pick in return, but it wasn’t clear which year’s draft the pick would be drawn from or whether any limitations were attached. This afternoon, Lakers spokesman John Black filled in the picture for me: the pick is for 2013 and is top-40 protected. If Denver’s second-round pick in 2013 falls in the top 40, the Lakers will instead receive the Nuggs’ second-round pick in the 2014 draft. This news makes me feel better about the trade. Chu Chu’s about as obscure as prospects come, and given that he was taken with the 56th pick, it figured that what the Lakers got back would be token consideration, at best. Instead, there’s a non-trivial chance the acquired pick actually turns out to be a useful asset – or at the very least, marginally more useful than Chu Chu or anyone else the Lakers could’ve grabbed at his spot in the draft.

From Steve Aschburner, The latest round of NBA bargaining talks began Friday morning with a flood of about 40 players into the meeting in midtown Manhattan wearing identical gray T-shirts over their street clothes. The message, in bold yellow type beneath a silhouette of multiple players standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the front: “STAND / 2011 NBPA Summer Meeting NYC.” With the threat of a lockout looming once the current collective bargaining agreement expires Thursday, it was important to the players both to express their togetherness and to actually attend a session in the process of proposals and counter-proposals that will decide their professional fates. “The message is just solidarity,” said Billy Hunter, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association. That’s what STAND meant when the day began. Nearly five hours later, as owners, players, lawyers and staffers scattered for the weekend, it might have been shorthand for: Still Talking, Although No Deal.

From Tim David Harvey, Lakers Nation: “He was one of the most spectacular shooters the game has ever known”-Jerry West, HOOP Magazine, 1992. This years All-Star weekend was big for all of the NBA, right down to the logo. Los Angeles hosted the game at the STAPLES Center and the home-team Lakers used the weekend to unveil their latest statue. Joining Magic Johnson, Chick Hearn, Wayne Gretzky and Oscar De La Hoya was Mr. Clutch himself, Jerry West. Now with all due respect, where respect is due, the Lakers had someone East of West too. Standing right next to the fire of Jerry was the ice of Elgin Baylor, one of the coldest players to ever grace a basketball court. Baylor’s influence has been huge. R&B superstar Ginuwine was even named after the megastar. The singer even dropped his latest album entitled ‘Elgin’ this year. How fitting. Before revolutionary forwards like Pau Gasol, before Shaq and Kobe, before ‘Cap and Magic, before Wilt. Even before fans chanted West’s first name like Springer audiences, before even purple and gold. Straight out of Minneapolis, right to Los Angeles, Elg was there in blue and white, with stars around his Lakers shield. Los Angeles’ first officer was a force, making Laker fans feel better about Mikan’s retirement. Taking them higher, right before the days of the ‘Stilt’.

From David Brickley, Laker Nation: As Laker fans know Paul Sunderland followed Chick Hearn on T.V in the 2002-03 season, and Joel Meyers was the Lakers radio play-by-play man. In 2005, Sunderland was fired. The Lakers promoted Meyers up to T.V. and hired 26 year-old Spero Dedes to take over radio. Dedes was a man that understood the legacy of Chick Hearn, calling Chick the gold standard for not only Lakers broadcasts, but in all of sports broadcasting. He realized the legacy of the job, and never forgot the man that once called 3,338 consecutive Laker games. In 2009, we talked about following the legend of Chick Hearn, “Sitting in that chair, believe me there is not a night when I walk into Staples Center, and I don’t try to kind of pause, and realize where I am, and where I’m at, to be able to sit in that chair.” Dedes said. Anybody that heard Dedes on the radio as they were driving home from work or going out to grab a bite during a Laker game understands his talent.

From Mike Bresnahan, LA Times: So much for Pau Gasol getting traded to Minnesota. Anybody who believed that rumor should trade themselves to the Mojave Desert without water for a few days. Draft day came and went without any Lakers deals, but there’s still time for change before the league disappears like a mirage next Thursday when its labor contract expires. Who will be on the Lakers’ roster when next season begins? Here are one man’s estimates. Players from 2010-11 roster (chances of returning next season): Kobe Bryant (100%) The franchise player isn’t going anywhere for too many reasons to list, starting with his attraction among Lakers fans (merchandise + tickets = $$$) and ending with a hefty contract that pays him $83.5 million over the next three seasons, way more than any other player in the league.

From David Borges, Journal Register News Service: Kemba Walker wasn’t the only former UConn player to be selected in the 2011 NBA Draft Thursday night.??At around midnight, with the draft winding down and just three selections remaining, NBA deputy commissioner Adam Silver called out a name no one expected to hear.??“With the 58th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Los Angeles Lakers select … Ater Majok,” Silver announced.??Even in a draft full of international players few people have heard of, this was a shock. Majok, of course, was the much-ballyhooed UConn recruit from the Sudan via Australia who never really panned out for the Huskies. He played one ill-fated season with the Huskies (2009-10), but prior to the start of the 2010 season, he abruptly left the program.

Even though it’s standard operating procedure for nearly every national site, I’ve never been a fan of grading drafts right after they occur. While it’s nice to think we know how a player’s college game will translate to the pros, there are too many factors and variable to be able to truly determine what type of pro these kids will be.  Will injuries strike? Will the player improve on weaknesses? Will a teams’ system match what a player does well? Answers to these questions (and many more) can shape a career just as much as how often their jumper falls or how well they play defense.

However, if you go around the web, there’s also a different take on grading the draft; a take where the writer is asking “who won and who lost in this draft”? And while the answers to most of these questions are big name players or franchises that made especially questionable (or great) decisions on their draft picks, there’s also another type of “loser” that is consistently showing up on these lists.

Namely, the college player that left early that should have stayed in school.

And if you dig around the web a little, you’ll find that the Lakers’ selection at pick #41, Darius Morris, is one of the players appearing as a loser in this draft.

From Andy Katz at TrueHoop:

Darius Morris could have led Michigan toward a possible Big Ten title. Now he’ll have a hard time sticking with the Lakers.

Meanwhile, over at Yahoo!, Marc Spears includes Morris on his list of players that left school too early hoping for a first round selection, only to slip to the 2nd round where contracts aren’t guaranteed.

What no one is saying, however, is that Morris isn’t talented.

Furthermore, from my line of thinking, these critiques only further my belief that the Lakers potentially stole a real talent in this draft with the 41st pick. I mean, if many thought another year in college would have boosted Morris’ draft stock to the point that he would have landed in the 1st round next year (in what’s considered a much stronger draft by every expert), then I’m more than happy that the Lakers acquired such a talent when and where they did this year.

Obviously, there are no guarantees that Morris will develop. And Katz’ may prove to be right in his assessment that Morris doesn’t stick with the Lakers. However, the talent base is there and by all accounts so is the work ethic. If he progresses as naturally with the Lakers as he would have with the Wolverines, the Lakers may have found a keeper. And if that turns out to be the case, no one will be talking about how Morris was a loser in this draft but rather how the Lakers were winners.

And now, for your viewing pleasure, some of the skills that surely prompted the Lakers to draft Morris in the first place. Enjoy.